VA links up with Western New York HIE

By Mike Miliard
10:32 AM

As it works to improve the quality of care for veterans, especially those returning from recent conflicts, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched a project through which care providers can access clinical information via HEALTHeLINK, Western New York's clinical information exchange.

Western New York is one of 13 communities in the United States selected by VA to participate in the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program. Participating physicians from VA, private practices and hospitals across Western New York will be able to access health information for their veteran patients through HEALTHeLINK.

[See also: Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record pilot expands to include more veterans.]

"The VLER program is aimed at creating a more convenient and comprehensive medical, personnel and benefits record for all veterans, in addition to creating a seamless transition from military to civilian life," said Brian G. Stiller, director of VA Western New York (WNY) Healthcare System. "One of our priorities is to eliminate the need for our veteran patients to carry paper copies of their health records to private providers. The information will be accessible with a veteran's consent from military to VA to private-sector healthcare."

The program allows VA healthcare teams and community providers to access all laboratory, radiology and transcribed reports as well as medication history through HEALTHeLINK's health information exchange, say VA officials.

"Having a comprehensive medical picture for our veterans at the point of care is important as many are treated by physicians both at VA facilities and community providers," stated Miguel Rainstein, MD, chief of staff at VA Western New York Healthcare System. "This partnership can lead to better coordinated care among treating physicians and the elimination of duplicate tests, which is why we are encouraging our veterans to complete both their VLER and HEALTHeLINK consents."

[See also: HEALTHeLINK to pilot diabetes telemonitoring.]

A signed consent form for both VA and HEALTHeLINK is needed for Veterans to authorize their treating physicians to safely and securely access health information electronically. Veterans can enroll in person at either the Buffalo or Batavia VA facility's Release of Information Office or Veterans Service Center. Forms can also be found online at

HEALTHeLINK is coordinating its activities on this initiative with the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"HEALTHeLINK's participation in the VLER program is another example of how collaboration among healthcare organizations on health information technology initiatives is transforming patient care in Western New York," said Daniel E. Porreca, executive director of HEALTHeLINK. "This partnership allows medical information to be exchanged among treating physicians, whether at a VA facility, a hospital emergency room or at a primary care or specialist doctor's office, enabling more informed decisions and improved patient outcomes for our local veterans."